The CF Snowbirds in action. (Erin Haluschak photo)

The CF Snowbirds in action. (Erin Haluschak photo)

Homecoming for B.C.-raised Snowbirds pilot training in the province

Capt. Arpit Mahajan flies Snowbird 2 in his first year as a solo pilot with the team

It’s a kind of homecoming for Capt. Arpit Mahajan of the Canadian Forces Snowbirds team as the pilot behind Snowbird 2 returns to his home province.

Mahajan, who joined the forces in 2016 and graduated as a pilot one year later, began flying shortly after high school near his home in Delta at the Boundary Bay Airport.

Mahajan was born in Chandigarh, India and moved to Canada when he was seven years old. His career from earning his private pilot’s licence in Delta to becoming a Snowbirds pilot and training over the skies in the Comox Valley was a relatively quick trajectory.

RELATED: Video: Snowbirds hold first training session in the Comox Valley in more than 2 years

“Historically, you usually do a tour or two before coming to the (Snowbirds) squadron, to make sure you have enough experience to do the job,” he explained following a training session earlier this month. “I was at the right place at the right time – I was offered the opportunity to come to the squadron as a junior pilot after getting my wings.”

Mahajan gained experience quickly, first as a utility pilot and then a co-ordinator on the team. Initially, he would ferry jets, deliver parts and exchange planes, gaining experience wherever he could. This is his first year as a Snowbird 2 (inner right wing), but flying over B.C. brings back memories of growing up in the Lower Mainland.

“There are tons of mountains and cools things to fly over. I did some flying in the Interior over Kelowna. I love Comox, but I grew up in the Lower Mainland and that’s where my heart is.”

Although it is his first year as a single-digit pilot, Mahajan was on the team last year to take part in Operation Inspiration – the Snowbirds’ 2020 cross-country salute to Canadians doing their part to fight the spread of COVID-19. The operation ended tragically a year ago in Kamloops as a plane carrying Capt. Jennifer Casey, the team’s public affairs officer and pilot Capt. Richard MacDougall crashed in a residential area, killing Casey and injuring MacDougall.

Mahajan said while the operation ended with a tragic event, he believes the team is now in a good position to return to the skies, inspire people and provide hope and happiness through airshows.

“It’s obviously different but special. With Operation Inspiration, personally, I was unsure going into it how it was going to be perceived by the public. After doing flights across Canada and getting the reception we got … based on what I saw there, I think it is a very special year to be with this team. I hope we can have the same impact as we had last year.”

The team is honouring Casey’s memory in a variety of ways, he added. There will be something special painted on their jets and helmets in her memory and the team will be using the theme to Star Wars – of which Casey was a huge fan – in their shows.

Returning to Kamloops earlier this month while en route to Comox was a special moment not only for him but the entire team.

“Once we landed, you could see people along the fences (of the airport) – the firefighters were lined up. Above all else, it was good just to be back and show that we’re not fearful of being back, and we’re back on the road for what we do best.”

The Snowbirds will conduct their annual spring training in the Comox Valley until May 26.



photos@comoxvalleyrecord.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

The Trail Smoke Eaters will open the 2021 season on Oct. 8 against the Cranbrook Bucks in Cranbrook, and will have their home opener the next night against the same Bucks. Photo: Jack Murray
BC Hockey League announces 54-game schedule to begin in October

Trail Smoke Eaters open season with home-and-home series versus Cranbrook Bucks

Daryl Jolly, his wife Kerry Pagdin, their sons Cole Jolly (left) and Graeme Jolly, and their dogs Gracie and Clover. Photo: Submitted
Selkirk College arts chair diagnosed with lung cancer, family launches fund drive

Daryl Jolly co-founded the college’s digital arts program

TELUS is proposing to construct a 5G tower at Pople Park. Photo: Sheri Regnier
First 5G tower in Trail proposed for placement in popular park

TELUS has a consultation process open until June 28

The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League met for their AGM and announced a number of new initiatives, new awards and changes in their executive committee, as well as the starting date for the 2021-22 season. Paul Rodgers file.
KIJHL announces start dates for 2021-22 season

Season set to begin Oct. 1 with league still following all health guidelines

South Slocan’s Ti Loran is among the recipients of this year’s Neil Muth Memorial Scholarship. Photo: Submitted
Neil Muth Memorial Scholarships awarded to 4 students

Students in Creston, South Slocan and Revelstoke are sharing the honour

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Grace (left), a caribou that was born in a maternal pen north of Revelstoke, is alive and well said the province. It appears she even has a calf. Maternity pens aim to increase caribou calf survival by protecting them from predation until they are older and less vulnerable. (Contributed)
For the first time in years, caribou numbers increasing near Revelstoke

North herd growing but south herd still concerning

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

Kelowna General Hospital. (File photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Kelowna General Hospital declared over

Three people tested positive for the virus — two patients and one staff — one of whom died

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

Most Read